Iris Care


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Bearded Iris Care and Culture

Plant your irises in a sunny well-drained location with at least one half day of sun. Too much shade will produce heavy foliage but little or no bloom.

Soil pH should be close to neutral – add lime to sweeten very acid soils.

Don’t plant too deep, just barely cover the rhizome with earth. Firm soil tightly around each rhizome.

For heavier clay type soils, add aged compost and/or sand to the soil when preparing the bed. Or consider planting irises in raised beds. Plant from one to two feet apart.

Thin or move your irises when they become overcrowded , usually 3 to 4 years.

Cultivating and Watering

Bearded iris do not like “wet feet”. When newly planted they will require weekly watering until the roots are established. After that, infrequent but deep watering is best. Keep irises free of weeds Winter protection is not necessary in milder climates such as the Pacific Northwest.

Do not cut back the iris leaves while still green; the foliage feeds the plant for the next season. Foliage can be cut back in the fall if desired. Cut bloom stems off at ground level after bloom.

Bearded irises thrive on a minimum of fertilizer. Do not use manure or high-nitrogen fertilizers, which can promote soft growth, that is apt to rot.

Iris Problems
1. Excessive moisture conditions, poor drainage, or too much nitrogen type fertilizer causes bacterial soft rot.
2. Leaf spot can occur when weather is wet or muggy. The leaves develop spots of brown, which can be unsightly and spread to the whole leaf.
3. In the Northwest, slugs can be a problem, eating holes in the leaves in the early spring. Commercial slug bate is recommended.


Dig and divide iris clumps when they become overcrowded, usually after 3 to 4 years.

Dig the entire clump with a spading fork or shovel. Cut off larger, healthy, outer rhizomes with leaves. Discard the old “mother” rhizomes. Trim leaves to about 6 – 10” long. Plant new divisions as indicated above.

Well-grown bearded iris, like this Border Bearded Fascinating (Craig '05), will display both color and hardiness. Photo by Will Plotner.